Nubian protesters to continue sit-in against sale of Toshka land in Egypt's Aswan

Zeinab El-Guindy, Sunday 20 Nov 2016

Nubian activists say they are protesting against the sale of village lands in a government-run auction

A photo from the sit-in taken on Saturday at Abu-Simbel-Aswan highway (Ahram Arabic website)

Not less than 150 Egyptian Nubians continued their sit-in for the second consecutive day on the Abu Simbel-Aswan highway in Aswan governorate as security forces refused to allow them entry to Toshka to protest against the sale of land there to non-Nubians.  

On Saturday, a group of Egyptian Nubian activists organised a convoy called "The Nubian Return Caravan" where Nubians from all over the country headed in 25 buses to Toshka and Forkund villages to start a sit-in against a presidential decree to allocate land in both villages for investment development.

"The sit-in will continue despite the attempts of security to disperse it," Mohamed Azamy, the head of the Nubian Union and one of the "caravan" organisers, told Ahram Online from the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan.

According to Azmy, not less than 150 protesters are still participating in the sit-in.

"More people are expected to come from other Nubian villages in Aswan to support us later today," he added, expressing fears that clashes may break out between the newcomers who want to join and security forces.

Late Saturday, three Nubian protesters were injured as security forces attempted to disperse tens of demonstrators who blocked a number of major highways and railways in Aswan, Al-Ahram Arabic website reported.

The protesters were objecting to how security forces stopped Nubian activists from advancing to the Toshka and Forkund areas to hold their sit-in there.  

Asked about whether the Nubian activists have been contacted by officials, Mohamed Azamy said that security officials asked them to end the sit-in before discussing their demands.

Development project 

In August, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued a presidential decree allocating 922 feddans — including land in Toshka area — to the new Toshka development project.

In October, the Egyptian government announced that it would sell parts of the new Toshka development project in an auction for investment as part of the "1.5 million project", a new national mega-project.

Nubian activists say that thousands of feddans that belonged to old Nubian villages were allocated to the 1.5 million project and will be sold to investors.

They had already objected to another presidential decree issued in December 2014 that designated masses of lands along border areas as army territory that should not be populated.

Among those pieces of land are 16 old Nubian villages activists demand to return to.

Originally, Nubia stretched for about 350 kilometres from Dabud village to the south of Aswan to Adendan village in the Halfa Valley in modern-day Sudan.

According to Nubians, they are 44 old Nubian villages from which they were forcibly displaced during the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1960s.

In a statement issued earlier this month, the Nubian Return caravan said that both presidential decrees were unconstitutional, citing Article 236 of the current constitution in support to their cause.

The 2014 Egyptian Constitution stipulates in Article 236 that "the state works on developing and implementing projects to bring back the residents of Nubia to their original areas and develop them within 10 years in the manner organised by law."

Nubians consider this article as a victory for their cause after decades of marginalisation by the state as well years of unanswered demands to return to their land.

In media statements earlier this month, Aswan's governor stated that the Egyptian Nubians had the priority to buy the land of Toshka and Forkund before others.

"We will not buy our own land," Azmy told Ahram Online, commenting on the governor's statement.

On social media, "Nubia" and "The_Nubian_return_carvan" in Arabic have been trending in the past 48 hours on Twitter and Facebook with updates from Aswan.

Short link: